From the day that you found out that you were going to be a parent, it is likely that you’ve been preparing in some way - all while your little one has been comfortably growing inside of you. It’s also possible that you’ve read every book out there, talked to friends and family and are ready to tackle the first steps of parenting head on. Of course, this includes how to nourish your newest member of your family beyond the womb.
Breastfeeding is very natural, but that does not mean it’s easy. You’ve heard your friends talk about their first time breastfeeding their baby - it was a perfect and seamless process! Sure, this may be the case for some moms, but not all. While nothing can prepare you for the real thing, tips, advice and what to expect from a lactation consultant can come pretty close. So, meet Maria DiSciullo, International Board Certified Lactation consultant at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania!
Q and A with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant
Tell us a bit about yourself. Why did you decide to become a nurse?
I initially started my nursing career as a new graduate in July of 2003 on the postpartum unit on Silverstein 8 at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. I enjoyed caring for mothers and their newborns, in addition to teaching them how to care for their new baby.
Why and how did you make the decision to specialize in breastfeeding/lactation consultation?
Naturally, my knowledge in the area of breastfeeding grew over the years. I found myself becoming a breastfeeding advocate, spending extra time helping mothers that were breastfeeding with all of their needs and concerns. I began taking 90 hour courses to be an International Board Certified Lactation consultant (IBCLC). In October of 2011, my dream came true and I began working as a lactation consultant for 2-4 days a month and in 2014, I began a more permanent role as a part of the Lactation Team at HUP. We now have a total of six IBCLCs on our team! This role has given me the opportunity to use my own judgment and knowledge while establishing a relationship with the families I work with to support their decision to breastfeed their newborn.
You work with new moms day in and day out. What are their most common struggles, especially with breastfeeding?
Through my 14 years of clinical experience and being a mother of two breastfed children, I realized that being a mom and breastfeeding comes with many challenges - such as sore nipples, decreased milk supply and how to adjust when going back to work. I have always been a big advocate for supporting and promoting breastfeeding in the hospital. However, I realized our patients do not have much support in the local community after they are discharged from the hospital. I worry that some mothers, especially first time mothers, don’t receive enough education and support in the hospital and become very overwhelmed when they are discharged home and give up breastfeeding.
Why is it important for new moms to attend breastfeeding support groups?
Breastfeeding support groups can help mothers continue to breastfeed up to one year of age - as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. In these groups, mothers can share their experiences in a safe atmosphere of trust and respect. I enjoy hearing the mothers share why breastfeeding was a special experience for them and helping them explore options to support the challenges they are currently facing. In addition, pregnant women gain knowledge and are able to prepare for breastfeeding. Everyone is able to learn from one another.
On one occasion, I had a first time mother with sore, cracked nipples attend my group with her two-week old son. She needed help latching properly. I gave her gel pads, showed a video on how to latch an infant properly and provided a list of outpatient lactation consultants who could assist her in her home or in an outpatient office. I also weighed the baby and assured mom that the baby was gaining weight from her last pediatrician appointment. She left the support group feeling more confident in how to cope with the adjustments of motherhood.
Each month, I look forward to the next session and experiencing an environment full of eagerness to learn, connections that are made between moms and the confidence and knowledge they acquire from attending the group.
New Breastfeeding Support Group Location!
Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
3400 Spruce Street
Family Caregiver Center
Ravdin Building, 1st Floor Mezzanine
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Learn more about the parenting and breastfeeding classes and support groups at Pennsylvania Hospital and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.